A huge procession and funeral will be held for
Muhammad Ali on Friday to “allow anyone that is there
from the world to say goodbye”, his family says.
The funeral will be in Ali’s home city of Louisville, Kentucky.
Ex-President Bill Clinton will deliver a eulogy.
Comedian Billy Crystal and sports journalist Bryant Gumbel
are also expected to speak.
The boxing legend, 74, died on Friday of “septic shock due
to unspecified natural causes”.
A private family service will be held on Thursday.
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The three-time world heavyweight champion, and one of the
world’s greatest sporting figures, died in Phoenix, Arizona,
and his body will be flown to Kentucky in the next two days.
He will be buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, the city
of his birth in 1942.
The fighter had been suffering from a respiratory illness, a
condition that was complicated by Parkinson’s disease.
“He was a citizen of the world and would want people from
all walks of life to be able to attend his funeral,” said the
family spokesman, Bob Gunnell.
After the family service on Thursday, Friday’s events will
begin with another private prayer service for family
members at a Louisville funeral home.
Ali’s body will then be taken in procession through the main
streets of Louisville, including an avenue that bears his
name and Broadway, where a procession was held in 1960
to celebrate his Olympic gold medal.
The main service will be at 14:00 local time (18:00 GMT) at
the KFC Yum Center, which seats more than 20,000 people.
It will be interfaith but in the Muslim tradition, led by an
imam, the family said, in keeping with Ali’s beliefs.
“Muhammad Ali was clearly the people’s champion,” Mr
Gunnell said, “and the celebration will reflect his devotion to
people of all races, religions and backgrounds.”
The event will be live-streamed on the centre’s website.
Mr Gunnell said the fighter died in Arizona at 21:10 on
Friday, and was able to say goodbye to his wife and children,
who were present for his final moments.
Tributes have poured in from across the world but also
dominated his home city, where flags were at half-mast at
city hall and thousands of people visited the Muhammad Ali
Center or paid homage at his modest childhood home on
Bill Clinton paid tribute to Ali on Saturday, saying he lived
a life “full of religious and political convictions that led him
to make tough choices and live with the consequences”.
“Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better
for it,” said US President Barack Obama.
Ali was as much a campaigner for black equality as he was a
champion in the ring.
Asked how he would like to be remembered, he once said:
“As a man who never sold out his people. But if that’s too
much, then just a good boxer.
“I won’t even mind if you don’t mention how pretty I was.”
But he was once a polarising figure in the US. At a time of
racial segregation in the 1960s he joined the separatist black
sect, the Nation of Islam, which rejected the inclusive
approach of civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King.
George Foreman, who lost his world title to Ali in the famous
“Rumble in the Jungle” fight in Kinshasa in 1974, called him
one of the greatest human beings he had ever met.
“To put him as a boxer is an injustice,” said Foreman.
American civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson said Ali had
been willing to sacrifice the crown and money for his
principles when in 1967 he refused to serve in the Vietnam
That decision was widely criticised by the boxer’s fellow
Americans. He was stripped of his title and had to put his
fighting career on hold for three years.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Ali shot to fame by winning
light-heavyweight gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
Known as “The Greatest” – a nickname characteristically
coined by the boxer himself – he beat Sonny Liston in 1964
to win his first world title and became the first boxer to
capture a world heavyweight title on three separate
At the time of his first fight with Liston, Clay was already
involved with the Nation of Islam, a religious movement
whose stated goals were to improve the spiritual, mental,
social, and economic condition of African-Americans in the
Life-threatening condition when blood pressure drops to
dangerously low level after infection
People with weakened immune system are more prone to
developing septic shock
Symptoms include slurred speech, confusion, diarrhoea,
vomiting, shivering, muscle pain
Quick response is key to successful treatment
But in contrast to the inclusive approach favoured by civil
rights leaders like Dr Martin Luther King, the Nation of Islam
called for separate black development and was treated by
suspicion by the American public.
Ali eventually converted to Islam, ditching what he called his
“slave name” and becoming Cassius X and then Muhammad
Noted for his fast talk and bold fight predictions as much as
his skills inside the ring, he retired in 1981 having won 56 of
his 61 fights – 37 by knockout – and was later crowned
“Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC.
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A huge procession and funeral will be held for